Friday, February 14, 2014

END of TRIP--Random Thoughts

Heading Home.

      Today may be my last post, as we leave early tomorrow--by car to San Sebastian de la Gomera, by ferry to Los Christianos on Tenerife, by bus to Santa Cruz , by taxi to North Tenerife Regional Airport, by Iberia Airline to Madrid, by shuttle to the Madrid Airport Hilton Hotel, by shuttle to Madrid International Airport, by Delta to Atlanta and finally by Delta to Madison where someone will meet us with coats (something we have been gleefully without) to drive us home. It's not like going to the Dells from Cross Plains for a vacation, that's for sure! And yet, all that seems normal by now.
         If I were to observe anything at this point it would be that Life is Indeed Short. "A short trip from the cradle to the Crypt" (Steve Goodman) We visited many temples, pagodas and churches....

And uniformly they promised many things. But, the one thing they never promise is "tomorrow." As our visit to Pearl Harbor so graphically reminded us-- our freedoms come at a great price, and we must cherish every day.

I dearly love being a lawyer, but taking the time to breath outside the law has been everything I had hoped.


        What a trip! We planned this trip to go places we had never been, and often places we might never go. Get out of our comfort zone--or in Karen's case, off of her planet. And boy did we achieve that... A party on a third-world river--Irawady River sandbar, Bagan, Myanmar/Burma

A truly huge city--Hong Kong

Life with forms of transport never imagined.

Sounds trivial, but such travel really does remind us how wonderfully varied and exciting this marvelous world can be.


     The real highlight of the trip was to have the great pleasure of seeing, meeting and being able to enjoy so many different people and their cultures.  From sharing a moment with our new friends in Burma, dressed in a longyi--the native 'dress' of Burma. (Perhaps I'll wear this next week in the Wisconsin Supreme Court... test their tolerance a bit?)

Learning of monks and all thing monk-like.

Enjoying the rural life of Hawaii

And the rural life of the Canary Islands.

Testing our limits in a city that makes New York look small--Hong Kong
 Testing our limits visiting a Muslim desert enclave--Dubai

And enjoying the energy of an enigmatic city--Barcelona

In each of these places I tried to share with those reading here something about the people--what they eat, where they shop, school kids and old folks. We stayed long enough to taste and enjoy each stop. Perhaps we could have stayed longer, but never less.

Would you Do it again?


Will you ever get the chance to do it again?

     Who knows? We can only say, it was indeed the trip of a lifetime. I thank God, Karen, my family and those many friends, clients, partners, associates and colleagues who had faith in me over the years--they made this possible.
       BUT, we are really anxious to see our kids and our adorable granddaughter.  It will be good to get home.


Thursday, February 13, 2014


An Unexpected Bit of "Wilderness"

     There are a lot of people in the world! In fact, I can not say how enjoyable it will be to back at our 20 acres in the country--no people.  We do love the great cities and countries we've visited, but getting back to a place without so many people will be comfortable.  Now, that's a bit of an odd statement, don't you think, when you are on an island in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, that has no town over about a 2,000 people? And, that's where the story begins....
     You see, around the world, they love tour buses. That's what I've learned. Everywhere--more tour buses. Remotest village in rural Burma--tour buses. Hong Kong with its 100 story apartments--tour buses. And when I went for a hike in the high mountains of  La Gomera yesterday--tour buses.
      Now, I know what you're thinking. Tour buses on Route 80 crossing the country at 70 miles per hour watching the rolling wheat fields pass you by. You're right on one count--70 miles per hour. The rest, nah! You see the roads here in La Gomera were built at the time of Columbus, as in Christopher Columbus. Horse-carts and sailboats. I mean, gasoline was not yet invented. (An environmental wackos Nirvana.)  Here is a bus trying to turn on one of those roads.

     If 'turning buses' were the only issue, well you could stop and wait, but remember these things actually drive on the roads.
    Again, a bit of digression before I get back to the story.  This Island is famous these days because it contains the last truly pre-Ice Age Mediterranean forest.  There are, perhaps, more species of plants that exist only here than on any other island in the world. This means the 'internationalista' of the UN have designated the forest as a "World Heritage Site". In other words, if you think it's a big deal that California is running out of water because we've chosen to protect a 4 inch long minnow around San Jose is a bit over-protective, try doing that on steroids by letting the UN declare you are something special. Build a "real road" thru the park, surely you jest.

     I do love this picture, though, because despite my protestations, here you have the national park sign and immediately outside the park a stump of some tree species that is probably near extinction.  I may be a cruel capitalist, but even I understand that sometimes protection might be a good idea. (Or put differently, I accept human nature--and if you can cut a tree to buy a flat-screen television, well the Amazon be damned....)

      So, after swerving up the mountain on roads built for horse-cart, one reaches the information center for the park. A really nice place

on which five (I counted them) tour busses then descend. I mean I don't even know how they got there. I'm in a very small EU qualified VW (with stick shift, ouch!) and here five giant tour buses show up. And everyone is speaking German (a bit of Russian, I did notice).
I make a hasty retreat down a one lane  road thru the park at about 4,000 feet above the sea, precipitous drops on both sides, overhanging trees of species I have no clue about, driving about 4 miles per hour (or maybe 3,000 kilometers per hour, never have figured out the conversion) And, what happens?
    It is NOT a One Lane Road!  Here come three (I counted them again) tour buses from the other direction.  You think I'm kidding--nope--three tour buses that make our U.S. buses look like minivans. I come to a complete stop. So do they. A game of chicken--"Pollo", this is still Spain. Guess what, the bus wins! The driver literally stands up behind the wheel and points to the side of the road--as in, go there gringo! If you don't, the blue helmeted UN troops will take you to UN jail (actually a resort, it is the UN, after-all, probably in a Syrian suburb). I dutifully comply, say a prayer, hope I remember how to put it back into first gear and do all that before I fall off the cliff.
Here's the road and one of the buses and the one receding into the distance after I dutifully complied with the order to get off the road.

     The problem of course is that this is just the beginning of the road. 20 kilometerslater I lost track of the number of buses and vans I had to pull off the road to avoid. And coming around blind corners--now I'm saying Dick Butkus would wet himself if he would have been in the car with me.
      All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare says, and I did see some truly magnificent places hiking thru the woods.

    A word to my fellow Badger-staters (and those from the flatland of Illinois as well) La Gomerian roads are not for the faint-of-heart. One ranger in the park said, "sure you can take that road, so long as you're not afraid of heights". I thought I wasn't. After-all, I've driven with Flint Stephens in the mountains, and I've been to the top of the Sears Tower. Little did I know that you could build roads into cliffs and then incline them roughly at the same incline as the giant single-person waterslide, the world's fastest roller-coaster and the trajectory of a rocketship. Now I know--and well, I did survive.

     Boy did I drink some serious wine last night when I returned... could have used some American Whiskey. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014



Atlantic/Pacific--Now I know how Columbus was confused.

      One factoid about oceans is that, well, they act like oceans wherever they are. Kinda like we humans, the more we claim to be wildly different, the more we realize we all share common DNA. Which is not say, "Stay home, watch TV--it's so much easier." Watching someone catch a magnificent Musky and catching one yourself--no comparison. Reading a book about a beautiful place and seeing that beautiful place up close and personal--no comparison. Still, though, it is fascinating in this very strange place to see how it so resembles Kauai.
    Here, though, to start, is how it does not--a wonderful dish of perfectly sauté cuttlefish, which I think is octopus, for Supper last night.  We eat at about 10 p.m.--welcome to Spanish culture. Admittedly I am channeling a bit of my Greek heritage by enjoying this marvelous dish.

     Here--the Ocean crashing against the cliffs, as in the Napali coast of Kauai a month ago.

     La Gomera was the last stop of Columbus as he provisioned in 1492 for his voyage to America. They mark every spot he walked (a-la "Lincoln Slept Here"-- HAPPY BIRTHDAY ABE, today is Feb. 12, your birthday.).  As he traveled West off the edge of the earth he was in search of the Far East, Hawaii, if you will. So as he passed these cliffs little did he know it would not be much different so far to the West.

      The villages here on the island are all in spectacular shape. Tourism and Bananas have both, apparently been good. Agulo is one of those villages and like so many towns founded in the 18th or 19th Century (or before) walking was the mode of transport. So, you can still walk this village overlooking the Atlantic, still see the terraced fields, farmed to this day, in the background and enjoy the marvelous pace.

       But as I said at the outset, folks still shop,

go to school and, of course

play football (ok, it's "soccer"-- not really "football"-- Go Irish!)

Monday, February 10, 2014


Dizzy beginning, good ending.

   God gave me a great stomach. Big, but still great. If you can cook it, I'll eat it. If there's a roller coaster to be ridden, I'll ride it. And boats and mountain roads--child's play.  I realize it's a gift from the Almighty and last night we learned, again, that some are not so lucky.
    As we arrived in the dark across a high-seas boat-ride from Tenerife to La Gomera on a beautiful ferry (albeit 'rolling' more than Elvis in concert)

Karen charged ahead to get a cab. This island is only 23 kilometers wide, but that's as the crow (or should I say 'canary') flies. Put differently, it was roughly a million miles more or less, switchback, blind curves, up-and-down to our destination, and just for a few giggles, let's make it pitch black, foggy and raining.
    For the record, as if that matters (but it might in case you ever hear Karen's version) Karen chose the guy. A swarthy, tall, dark, good-looking Canarian. We hopped in his Mercedes station-wagon "cab" and he took off. "Launched" would be a more appropriate description, as in accelerated so quickly we were pushed into our seats at mach-6 speed. Lord help the guy in front of us, passed in town. Lord help the next guy, passed as we shot up a curve into the mountains. Lord help us, as our intrepid astronaut of a drive flew past a small bus only to have a car waiting for him, lights off (apparently another Canarian anomaly--driving at night without lights). We swerved, cut the guy off we were passing and accelerated around the corner. At this point I noticed the town was only a distant light, far below--barely visible over the guardrail. No, wait, there was no guardrail, and it was a sheer mountain on our right, cliff on our left....
    At this point, I looked over at Karen (after I fastened my seatbelt, said a prayer and closed my eyes a bit) and she was white. Of course she's white, I mean she was REALLY WHITE, as in all the blood gone from her face, parsed lips, cross-eyed, breathing hard looking for a bag (and not to carry the groceries in) I said, "Are you OK?" -- STUPID QUESTION. She uncrossed her eyes just long enough to send daggers my way and uttered, for the 12 millionth time in the last several weeks--"I can't believe you talked me into this.".  Maybe a few road pictures (in the light of the next day) will help everyone understand that Space Mountain is not in California, the real "space mountain" is right here.

     We did make it, of course, and Karen informed me, "Don't even ask me to get in a car tomorrow!" So, today, like the Bible directs, we treated it as the Sabbath and rested.

      As for tomorrow....I have a stick shift VW that will likely test our marriage a bit more... or perhaps we'll just sit on our terrace and eat/drink the day away...

Saturday, February 8, 2014


A Parade and More.

    Today we begin the trek to the Canary Islands--limo to the airport, flight to Tenerife, driver/taxi across Island to Los Christianos, Ferry to La Gomera (an Island and hour away by hydroplane ferry), taxi across La Gomera to rural hotel in Hermigua.  Up at 6 to start the day and will hopefully arrive around midnight among the banana plantations, high in the mountains of the island of La Gomera. We may have no internet this coming week--so if you hear nothing, we're either off the grid or we decided to abandon all our worldly possessions and vacation forever.... both are reasonable possibilities.
    And Barcelona continues to amaze.  They held a parade in our honor yesterday ("American Ego" on full display there). But really, they did, in the Medieval/Roman city at the heart of Barcelona. An interesting thought: the old Roman walls and city are mostly buried because the Center for Preserving Everything Old Because It's Always Better Than The New Stuff had not yet been founded. Buildings were taken down and on top of them came the new Medieval City which the Mores (a/k/a Muslims) burned to the ground, only to be replaced by yet another city and magnificent Cathedral in the 12th Century, only be torn down (mostly) again late in the 1800's and early 1900's to build a modern city. Makes you wonder, doesn't it, about what will be left of what we have built in another 1,000 years. (Bet on "not much".)
     So, here's the parade of flutes, recorders and drums with costumed characters being carried on the head of a child on a chair.  Gotta love a parade!

      And that Gothic Cathedral was quite a sight.  Ken Follet wrote the best book about building a cathedral (Pillars of the Earth), and here it is--took 200 years to build. (Kinda like the last carpenter you hired to fix the kitchen....)

     Great food all the time, perhaps for another description. Tapas 24 was marvelous (thanks Roger Strode) and Moments, a two star Michelin restaurant in the Mandarin Oriental was likely the best restaurant we have ever eaten at! (The chef has 7 Michelin stars!). And wherever we stopped for Sangria and Tapas was always a treat.  No wonder folks "sit" a lot here and just watch the world go by. Seems like a good idea.

     AND, what great Gothic Cathedral would not be complete without a goose wandering around with his colleagues (perhaps a new Catholic Order?)